Here are things that Garrison Keillor and I have in common. We are both tall. We have both performed at the Historic Fitzgerald Theatre. We have both worked for Minnesota Public Radio. (Specifically, I am a contractor for their parent company, American Public Media.) When Keillor said he was fired this week, following allegations of misconduct, my first thought was, “Wait, he still works here? I thought he retired.” My second thought was, “Bye!”
I try not to read Internet comments, particularly any that originate in Minnesota, where I grew up and live today. This is the home of Prince. Of “Minnesota Nice.” The home of Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon, where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average. His long-running show, A Prairie Home Companion, perpetuated a beloved but fictional version of Minnesota. One that is all hot dishes and church basements, oh geeze and ya, you betcha. To read the comments on some of our local media yesterday, you’d think that Minnesota Public Radio had dropped a bomb on a real city, not simply severed ties with the creator of a fictional one.
Here is what I know about the Garrison Keillor accusations: nothing. Or, nothing more than you know. We read the same condescending and atrocious comment he gave. We read the same sterile PR statement from MPR.
Here is what I know about Garrison Keillor’s work: it’s brought a lot of money and notoriety to the MPR organization. It wouldn’t be unfair of me to say that A Prairie Home Companion and all the money it’s made have made it possible for me to launch my own show (a podcast called Terrible, Thanks for Asking). Letting Keillor go likely has huge financial implications for the company, which spent a month investigating the allegations.
I’m not impressed that MPR terminated Garrison Keillor’s contracts. Believing women is a pretty baseline expectation for me, and giving anyone a round of applause for being decent sets the bar lower than it already is.
And reading the comments on any of these stories, you realize that bar is already dangerously low. People are decrying MPR for firing Garrison Keillor because they assume that where there’s smoke, there’s a vast feminist conspiracy trying to prevent men from ever touching women again, and heaping huge financial rewards on women who come forward.
And one of them, from a person named Ray, went like this:
“Not to go all slippery slope, but there’s a part of me…